Though she's done it a thousand times, flying still seems like a miracle. This confession, one of the many intimately shared moments from the eight stewardesses in Wickets, better conveys the heart of this play than its avant-guarde theatrics. By adaptating Maria Irene Fornes's Fefu & Her Friends in an airplane, Jenny Rogers and Clove Galilee have succeeded in expressing the science of theater--of humanity--as a complex miracle.
Reviewed by Aaron Riccio
There are no seatbelts on the mock airplane set of Jenny Rogers’s adaptation of Maria Irene Fornes’s Fefu & Her Friends. None are needed: Wickets is engaging and smooth, but it’s hardly dramatically turbulent. Nor should it be: by sticking to the surfaces, co-directors Rogers and Clove Galilee are being true to the eight stewardesses on Wicket Air Flight #1971. (The feminist content has been updated from 1935 to 1970.) The deeper truths come out in loose yet cryptic monologues, and through an interpretation of Fornes’s experimental style that collages text and breaks out into song and dance.
Because none of the women can identify what they lack, Wickets is largely without conflict. However, it is saved from gimmicks by the physical confines of the set: there is nowhere for the actresses to hide, which accentuates even the smallest and most silent action. It also personalizes the ethereal angst: even if you don’t follow Fefu (Lee Eddy) as she talks about a constant pain (“It’s not physical, and it’s not sorrow . . . it’s as if normally there is a lubricant . . . a spiritual lubricant”), her claustrophobic sobs are clear.
The play is most successful in Part II, which divides the plane into three smaller sections (Coach, Business, First), and grounds itself in naturalism. If your heart goes out to Paula (Elizabeth Wakehouse), as she waxes over her failed affair with Cecilia (Jona Tuck), it does not have far to travel. It’s easier to empathize with Sue (Kristen Rozanski), who sexually represses, and Christina (Katie Apicella), a timid conformist, when they’re inches away. It’s really a disservice to reduce these women to labels, given the rich complexity with which the actresses embody them.
In the end, Wickets is more of a feeling than a play, but the impressions formed by this hundred-minute flight are more than filling. It’s like Sue says: “I’ve had it explained to me a thousand times, why a plane stays in the air, but the scientific facts simply won’t do. It’s purely a miracle.” Somehow, despite a singing angel, retro wicket match, tufts of grass, water-gun fight, and in-flight movie, Wickets stays in the air.
Wickets (1hr 40min)
3LD Arts and Technology Center (80 Greenwich)
Tickets (212-352-3101): $18
Performances (through 1/25): Thurs. - Sun. @ 8
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